PeoplePC taps 9-year-old to front $40 mil campaign

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PeoplePC's estimated $40 million marketing push for its online buying community hinges on the grin of a winsome 9-year-old spokeskid, Marc John Jefferies.

PeoplePC is a direct marketer of affordable PCs that come bundled with Internet access and shopping discounts.

The PeoplePC proposition is simply and earnestly put forth in TV ads featuring the young spokesman that make their debut today via Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York. The pitch: Consumers get a computer, unlimited Internet access (without banner ads), in-home service and online shopping discounts for $24.95 per month, or as little as 82› a day.

Four TV spots that will run on prime-time broadcast and cable networks illustrate the simplicity of the offer. In the 30-second "Coffee," the boy appears in a robe with a hot drink. "Hello, Marc John Jefferies here," he says. "Believe it or not, for less than the price of a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, PeoplePC can give you a brand new computer and unlimited Internet access. Sounds great. But what if I need help at 2 in the morning? Rest assured, PeoplePC is awake and at the ready."


Each spot ends with a wide grin from the youngster, followed by the PeoplePC logo.

"What we're hoping that he brings is a straightforward, honest, simple and charming face to technology," said George Tannenbaum, Ogilvy creative director. "We were seeing a lot of noise in the marketplace and we wanted to do something different. We wanted to be clear and simple, honest and unhip."

PeoplePC has a mass target -- non-PC owners and consumers who want a second, third or replacement PC.

"The challenge was how can we begin to build a brand over time, but at the same time get people to pick up the phone every single day, every time they see that ad," said Mike Kelly, management supervisor, who along with Debra Barr, OgilvyOne account director, runs the PeoplePC business at the agency.


The campaign marks the company's second large-scale marketing effort. Launch ads were handled by WPP Group's Conquest, New York (AA, Oct. 11, '99). PeoplePC tapped O&M earlier this year to facilitate global affinity programs with 380,000 Ford Motor Co. and 75,000 Delta Air Lines employees. OgilvyOne handles direct responsibilities, while WPP's Mendoza-Dillon, Los Angeles, has Hispanic marketing.

PeoplePC's integrated advertising program includes TV, print, out-of-home, direct, online and e-mail marketing. Agile Industries, New York, handles online creative and media buying plus e-mail marketing.

PeoplePC supplies computer hardware from multiple vendors, including Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Toshiba America Information Systems. The PCs are co-branded. IBM is also an O&M client.

PeoplePC has more than 50 online shopping partners including, E*Trade Group and, from which consumers can access discounts.

The company filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission April 5, signaling its intent to go public. According to the filing, the company had 130,000 registered members as of March 31 and gross sales of memberships and products of $24.9 million. From October through Dec. 31, 1999, PeoplePC had revenues of $4.7 million, with a net loss of $64.3 million.

Company officials declined comment, citing the SEC-mandated quiet period that precedes a public stock offering.

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